Fog rolled through the trees that surrounded the pack Ragna, Rakel, Soley and I used to call home. The mist was so fine that it almost felt like it was raining, and I knew the plants would be glowing with life when the Sun God showed himself. He’d feed them, night would fall, and the cycle would start anew… depending on the time of year. Depending on the season…
I couldn’t believe a month had already passed since Ragna’s coronation. Who knew a queen would have sprouted from these humble roots? I stared at the quiet houses dotting the woods. We were lucky to have grown up here. Erik had been a good alpha to us, and the location helped us thrive. Winters weren’t too cold, summers weren’t too hot, and droughts were never a problem. Food was never a problem either, since there was always water around for the wildlife to prosper and for whatever plants we wished to grow.
We had it good here. Life was predictable, and it was safe.
Until Eysteinn happened.
My mother interrupted my thoughts by calling me into the house. Breakfast was ready. This would be the last meal I’d share with my family for the foreseeable future, and it was near enough to give a wolf a panic attack.
I pulled off my scarf and sat at the table with my parents, grandparents, and my younger brother. We’d had a larger gathering with extended family yesterday, so it was just us this morning. Mother seemed to be in even more of a state than she was last night, and father was doing the best he could to comfort her.
It was a hearty, healthy breakfast to give my wolf enough energy to get us where we needed to go. I was almost too nervous to eat, but I did the best I could. I was nauseated this morning. I hadn’t slept a wink, which meant I was hungry well before dawn. Then the anxiety hit my stomach…
“Thank you for breakfast, everyone,” I said to the table, not sure who did the cooking this time. “It’s delicious.”
“Just make sure you eat plenty so Eventide has energy to work with,” my father said, smiling as he held onto mother’s hand.
“Yes, you must make sure to eat plenty when you arrive too. Can we get news of your safe arrival?” my mother asked, biting her lip. I knew she was fighting off tears. She loved her pups.
“I’ll make sure they get a message to you,” I said, hoping to the gods that I didn’t forget to do that. I was so nervous; I’d be lucky if I left my parent’s home with my head attached. “And thank you for letting me store my things from my old place… I just don’t know what to do with them, but I’m not ready to just throw them away…”
“We have the room…” my mother said sadly.
“Well, I think she’s going to be just fine! This Generic Blueberry person said he’d give you everything you needed!” my mom’s mother said.
“You mean General Belenus?” I asked, correcting her and trying to suppress a smile.
“Yes, the gold one with the big ears,” my grandmother said, pointing her fingers along her head like she had fae ears. To my parent’s dismay, she now enjoyed pretending to be senile. What was worse was that my grandfather was beginning to join her antics.
“I thought his name was Dennis…” Grandfather grumbled as he took a bite of ham. I snorted into my juice and almost choked on it. A fae general named Dennis…
I smiled at my grandparents while my sibling laughed uncontrollably. I appreciated them trying to lighten the mood. “Yes, I’m sure as a general his salary is more than enough to provide… I’ll just have to figure out what to do with myself. I have no idea what career options I’ll have.”
“Don’t rush it. You have an entire new culture to adjust to,” my father said wisely.
“Do find a way to contact us if you get with pups or… er… what do they call fae pups?” my mother asked, furrowing her brows. Huh.
“I… don’t actually know,” I said, jutting my lower lip out in thought.
“Faebies,” Grandmother said knowingly.
“Little, tiny, bouncing faebes,” Grandfather nodded.
Somehow, I didn’t think that was true. I smiled wryly at them and took another forkful of eggs. It was a tiny bit, but their good humor was helping my nerves. It made it seem like it wasn’t the last meal, though, I didn’t know if that would make it worse when I had to leave.
“I didn’t think to ask him that when he was here,” my mother said, worrying at her hands until my father kidnapped one of them in his strong grip.
“He wasn’t here that long,” I said to validate her. “It was just a meal at the pack house to meet you all and Alpha Erik.”
“I hope it won’t be too hard for you to contact us from…” Mother choked on her words and held her hand over her mouth. Father rubbed her back and whispered soothingly to her. I waited until she’d steadied herself before I answered what she didn’t finish asking.
“I promise I will do everything I can to sort that out. Remember our Ragna’s a queen now, and there’s no way she’s letting me go any length of time without news!” I grinned and reached over to pat her hand.
“What you pups have been through is remarkable,” my father said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Ragna’s banishment, the search for Rakel, and our little Soley… a vessel for the barkin’ Sun God. That tiny, submissive little thing!” My father thumped the table with a finger. “I gotta say, I’m so proud of you little she-wolves!” He wiped a tear away with a growl and shoveled some ham into his mouth. “The lot of you are warriors!” he said with a mouth full of food, too emotional to care.
“I just can’t believe they’ve all had to leave the pack,” Mother said with a sigh. “You all found your fated mates, but they couldn’t be brought here…”
“Definitely not,” I said, shaking my head.
“It’s better this way,” my brother said calmly. “Go out, see the world… learn new things. I think it’s exciting.”
Mother rounded on him. “Nuh-uh! I don’t care if your fated mate is a blessed mermaid! You’re not leaving me too!”
Pretty much the entire table erupted into laughter after that. My poor mother.
Alpha Erik arrived at the hour he said he would, and I was escorted to the edge of pack territory with my family. My mother held my hand in a death grip, and it was starting to go numb, but I let her do it. I had a feeling she was almost as stressed as I was.
Actually, I’m going to need that paw to work, Eventide said, and I chuckled quietly.
Just walk it off. You’ll be fine, I replied to my wolf. You said all your byes too? I asked her.
I did… and I’d be a crying mess if it were possible. But. We. Will. Be. Ok! she growled.
Alpha Erik slowed, and I sensed we were near the edge of our pack’s territory. His stern face softened as he looked down at me. “It’s a shame to lose yet another solid wolf, Hekla,” he said, crossing his arms.
“I’m sorry, Alpha Erik,” I apologized, bowing my head slightly in submission. “I felt like I had to make an impossible decision.”
“I can’t even imagine,” he said with a small shake of his head. “I don’t hold it against you. It’s one thing to find a fated mate, but it's another thing to leave behind everything you know.”
“I am… scared,” I confessed, and my mother released my hand to give me some space.
“The fae should be the ones scared,” Alpha Erik said. “They’ll have a wolf in their woods.” Even though he delivered his lighthearted comment seriously, I knew it was meant to comfort me. “As much as you’ll want to blend in, never, ever forget about what sets you apart, Hekla. Use the tools they do not have, and do not let them know your weaknesses. You’ll have to sort out who the predators and the prey are yourself. Do so carefully, because a buck you aim to hunt can still kill you.”
Even though I was about to leave his pack, he was still looking out for me. I wiped a tear from my eye and nodded, letting him know I'd heard everything he’d said. I barely heard him speak as he severed my connection with the pack, and I stumbled into my father’s grip.
I grit my teeth through the emotional and physical turmoil. The way Ragna had described it to me was pretty accurate… a place that I never knew existed was suddenly empty. I felt hollow, and I hated it. Was this to be the rest of my life? How would I ever get used to this?!
I called upon every ounce of control I had to not cry because I knew my family was doing the same. We were all trying to be strong for everyone else, but we were all individually shattered. No, I felt more than shattered… I felt like my shards of glass had been ground back into sand and left to scatter in the wind. I felt like part of my identity had just disappeared.
All this to be with my fated mate. One I barely knew.
Everyone embraced me for the last time, and I knew I should hurry. Mother was shaking, and the sooner I left, the sooner she could let out her grief. I said my goodbyes and walked away from the only place I’d ever called home. I hoped that my family could find comfort with my friends’ families because I honestly had no idea if I’d ever see them again. I had another realm to call home now.